NFL Betting: Is the NFC West for Real?

To paraphrase “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, just when the NFL betting public thinks it has all the answers, the NFL changes the questions.

Take the NFC West, for example. People were getting quite used to laughing at this division; in 2010, all four teams posted losing records, and the Seattle Seahawks somehow won the NFC West title at 7-9 SU and ATS. Embarrassed football fans demanded (unsuccessfully) that the NFL change its playoff format to exclude losing teams from ever getting in.

Two years later, and the NFC West was turned upside-down. The Seahawks, armed with an intriguing new quarterback in Russell Wilson (100.0 passer rating, 5.2 yards per carry), swept all their home games and finished the year 11-5 SU and ATS. But they had to take a backseat to the San Francisco 49ers, who won the division at 11-4-1 (9-7 ATS) and went all the way to the Super Bowl.

Further down the standings, the St. Louis Rams made great strides in 2012, winning five more games to improve to 7-8-1 (11-5 ATS). The only disappointment was in the desert, where the Arizona Cardinals finished 5-11 (7-8-1 ATS) after winning their first four games in a row.

So is the NFC West for real? It sure looks like it. None of the four teams got it done with smoke and mirrors in 2012. Check out those Pythagorean Wins:

  • Seattle: 11-5 SU, 12.5 PW
  • San Francisco: 11-4-1 SU, 11.4 PW
  • St. Louis: 7-8-1 SU, 6.6 PW
  • Arizona: 5-11 SU, 4.8 PW

The only team with a significant gap between actual wins and Pythagorean Wins is the Seahawks, and their gap is a positive one – yes, the Seahawks might perform even better this year than they did in 2012. In fact, all four teams appear to be on the rise. The question is whether they can exceed those loftier expectations and beat the NFL odds in 2013.

The Niners may have lost the Super Bowl to the Baltimore Ravens, but they should be competitive again this year as 6/1 favorites on the Super Bowl futures market. They also have an incredible young quarterback in Colin Kaepernick (98.3 passer rating, 6.6 yards per carry) who seems destined to become the next superstar QB on the West Coast.

That’s if Wilson doesn’t beat him to it. As we go to press, the Seahawks are the No. 3 favorites to win the Super Bowl at 8/1, but Seattle may as well be its own country. While Wilson was putting on quite the show during the second half of the season, people who only follow the national media were paying more attention to Robert Griffin III of the Washington Redskins than Wilson or even Kaepernick.

Not to mention the fact that they almost completely ignored the Rams and Cardinals. Both franchises have undergone recent front-office makeovers, with Arizona making the switch to head coach Bruce Arians and general manager Steve Keim for 2013. The Cardinals didn’t start struggling last year until after QB Kevin Kolb (86.1 passer rating) was injured in Week 6; we’ll see how the Cards manage this year with Carson Palmer under center. Chances are they’ll do better.

And the Rams? Steady as she goes in year two under coach Jeff Fisher. The defense is already sound, and the offense should soon follow suit with QB Sam Bradford (82.6 passer rating) entering his fourth season – and explosive wide receiver Tavon Austin (No. 9 overall in the draft) joining him from West Virginia. It’s becoming an embarrassment of riches for the NFC West instead of just plain embarrassing.

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